Tough Sledding in Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park was the one that got away. I’ve been to Denver some 10 times and done several road trips around Colorado but I never went. It’s only 90-minutes from Denver but it’s a good 45 minutes off the main highway down a state road. So it wasn’t convenient. However, I finally made visiting Rocky Mountain National Park a priority and what a treat it was!

Tough Sledding in Rocky Mountain National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, national park

Welcome to Rocky Mountain National Park just outside of Estes Park, Colorado

I flew into Denver International Airport, where last year I filmed some CNN segments, rented a Jeep Cherokee and set off on what would become a 1500-mile road trip. My first stop was Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

I had checked the weather daily before my trip knowing how weather in Colorado can be and it didn’t look good. But you can’t control the weather and Colorado weather can change on a dime. So I didn’t hesitate going.

Just before the storm at about 10,000 feet

Just before the storm at about 10,000 feet

When I drove into Rocky Mountain National Park, there was a 10,000 feet cloud ceiling so you could see pretty well below. But the main draw of the park is at over 12,000 feet. After stopping into the Visitor Center to ask some questions, they told me they were expecting a storm at high altitude and may have to close the main road up. So I hopped in the car up before they could do that.

Ice lining the trail ridge road in Rocky Mountain National Park

Ice lining the trail ridge road in Rocky Mountain National Park

The winding trail ridge road took me quickly up into the clouds and visibility was OK-until it wasn’t. Just as I approached the absolute highest point of the road at 12,183 feet, it started sleeting. Then hail, followed by straight up snow.

Starting to sleet at 12,000 feet

Starting to sleet at 12,000 feet

Luckily I had rented a 4×4 that handled pretty well in the bad weather. Plus I grew up in Connecticut and was used to driving in snow. Some tourists in the park were clearly not and drove really slowly, holding everyone up. It was annoying but also part of the National Park experience on Memorial Day when it was really crowded.

The Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park

The Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park

Aside from traffic and weather, I did make it all the way down to the Continental Divide, about 1:15 from the main Visitor’s Center. From there it was a long haul back to Estes Park, the gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park, because of traffic.

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado

But that gave me a better opportunity to stop and see different viewpoints on the way back as the clouds had lifted since I passed by earlier. It was still snowing but you could see the mountains and vistas decently. It was pretty cold as you might imagine as well! Luckily I had no car issues and I was off to South Dakota via Wyoming.

Storms happen in the mountains

Storms happen in the mountains

So it was tough sledding in Rocky Mountain National Park. My experience was basically a Rocky Mountain alpine experience. It was nice, then it was terrible but the whole time it was beautiful and a lot of fun driving! I’m sure I’ll be back as I find myself in Denver pretty often.

Comments

  1. That pretty much sums up the Rockies. The weather was good til it wasn’t!

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